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A Direct Detection of Gas Accretion: The Lyman Limit System in 3C 232

  • John T. Stocke (a1), Brian A. Keeney (a1) and Charles W. Danforth (a1)

Abstract

The gas added to and removed from galaxies over cosmic time greatly affects their stellar populations and star formation rates. QSO absorption line studies in close QSO/galaxy pairs create a unique opportunity to study the physical conditions and kinematics of this gas. Here we present new Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images of the QSO/galaxy pair, 3C 232/NGC 3067. The quasar spectrum contains a Lyman limit (NHi = 1 × 1020 cm−2) absorption system (LLS) at cz = 1421 km s−1 that is associated with the nearby Sab galaxy NGC 3067. Previous work identifies this absorber as a high-velocity cloud (HVC) in NGC 3067 but the kinematics of the absorbing gas, infalling or outflowing, were uncertain. The HST images presented here establish the orientation of NGC 3067 and so establish that the LLS/HVC is infalling. Using this system as a prototype, we extend these results to higher-z MgII/LLS to suggest that Mgii/LLSs are a sightline sampling of the so-called ‘cold mode accretion’ (CMA) infalling onto luminous galaxies. To match the observed MgII absorber statistics, the CMA must be more highly ionised at higher redshifts. The key observations needed to further the study of low-z LLSs is HST UV spectroscopy, for which a new instrument, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, has just been installed greatly enhancing our observational capabilities.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

BCorresponding author. Email: stocke@casa.colorado.edu

References

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